If you want to join the gig economy and start making a living online, there are plenty of ways to jump in. For many, however, the easiest option is to sign up to a freelancing site and begin selling there. The question is which one. In this post, we will compare two of the biggest markets for freelancers: Upwork vs Freelancer.
Upwork is the largest freelancing site on the web. It has been around since 1999, though it has had a few name changes since then.
The platform has long been the go-to option for freelancers looking to launch their careers. It offers a number of powerful tools not found on competitor websites. These include integrated invoicing and payments, collaboration tools, messaging, scheduling, and more.
There’s also a controversial “Work Diary” tool that captures screenshots and keystrokes to track your productive hours on behalf of clients.
Using Upwork is easy. You create a profile and then browse job listings and projects using powerful filtering tools. If you wish to apply for a job or a position, you submit a “proposal” in exchange for a variable number of “Connects.” These Connects act like tokens. They are limited in number but replenished each month.
Freelancer (often written as Freelancer.com) is newer than Upwork but has been around since 2009. In terms of layout and structure, Freelancer is very similar to Upwork. You create a profile and then browse for “projects” that match the skills you list.
As with Upwork, you’ll be given the option to submit a proposal or “bid” on the projects you wish to complete. Also like Upwork, you are limited to a set number of bids per month.
Freelancer also has its own desktop app that tracks your working hours and aids with communication and collaboration. There’s a messaging app, too.
Upwork vs Freelancer fees
Freelancer fees are 10% or $5 (whichever is greater) for fixed-price projects and 10% for hourly projects. “Services”, however, are charged at 20%.
There’s also a maintenance fee of $10 per month if you ignore your account for six months or longer! This is refunded upon your request, but it is strange and frustrating that it exists at all. Just to be clear, as a web developer, I can tell you there is no “maintenance” involved in keeping a user account active! (My account has simply been deleted due to disuse!)
In general, the fee structure is vaguely worded and not completely transparent. Here is a quote from the official page:
“For fixed price projects, if you are awarded a project, and you accept, we charge you a small project fee relative to the value of the selected bid, as an introduction fee. If you are subsequently paid more than the original bid amount, we will also charge the project fee on any overage payments.For hourly projects, the fee is levied on each payment as it is made by the employer to you.The fee for fixed price projects is 10% or $5.00 USD, whichever is greater, and 10% for hourly projects.”
This also means that if the employer pays in multiple installments, the fee could be applied multiple times.
Upwork’s fee structure is not much more inspiring. Here, you will pay 20% on the first $500 earned and 10% on the remaining $500. Anything above $10,000 from a single client is charged at 5%.
While 5% may seem generous for a site like this, it’s important to remember that you’ll only ever see that rate if you are paid over $10,000 from a single client. The vast majority of fixed price gigs pay under $500, meaning you’ll be giving away 20%.
Upwork is, therefore, more expensive for smaller jobs. Its pricing strategy clearly favors long-term work. Upwork describes itself as a “recruitment platform” which partially explains this. However, it is standard practice in the recruitment industry to charge the employer rather than the job seeker. In my opinion, this makes the model used by both these platforms highly unappealing and detrimental to professionals.
Both Freelancer.com and Upwork have “Plus” membership options (Freelancer.com also has several additional tiers), which cost an additional fee. However, they give access to better invoicing tools and more bids/proposals.
Opportunities on Upwork vs Freelancer
Comparing the opportunities on Upwork vs Freelancer, there are some clear differences.
Firstly: Upwork has a much larger range of opportunities available. This is simply because it is bigger and more widely used. Upwork claims to have 100,000 jobs available at any given time, whereas Freelancer.com states 45,000.
Upwork has a much larger range of opportunities.
However, Freelancer.com actually has more freelancers signed up: 30 million vs 12 million. That means there is more competition for a smaller number of jobs. Upwork, on the other hand, reserves the right to restrict new sign-ups in order to manage this balance. Generally, Upwork also offers more long-term projects at slightly higher rates.
For example, Upwork currently has the following jobs available for me:
- Back-end developer needed for regular work alongside a Digital Marketing Agency
- Writer needed for Audible manuscript
- Excellent English SEO Content Writer Needed Immediately for Continued Work
- Travel Article Writers
- Content writer for popular educational Youtube channel
Freelancer has these jobs available:
- Graphic designer for a logo
- Video editor (3 videos a week)
- Get files from Azure to automatically work on an existing console application
- Edit Photos – Remove Reflections (36 photographs)
- Arabic website tester needed (one website)
- “I want to do google ads contact me so we can discuss more”
While the rates are significantly higher on Upwork, higher wages do come with greater expectations. There are reports of clients underpaying or going AWOL on both platforms, though this is more prevalent on Freelancer.com.
So, Upwork vs Freelancer: which is better? For most professionals, Upwork is the clear winner. Both platforms have a very similar structure and fees, but Upwork offers more jobs and better pay in a less-competitive market.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that Upwork is more likely to reject a new application, meaning not everyone will be able to create an account. If you are unable to create an account with the company, that will make the decision for you!
Another scenario where Freelancer.com may be preferable is if you are looking for smaller jobs rather than long-term commitments. Of course, it’s also perfectly acceptable to maintain accounts on multiple freelance sites.
In all honesty, I wouldn’t recommend either of these platforms
But in all honesty, I wouldn’t recommend either of these platforms! Both benefit the clients/employers far more than the workers. Additionally, both, in my opinion, represent the worst and most predatory aspects of the gig economy. Desktop trackers and difficulties getting paid give you many of the negatives of being employed with none of the security. And these platforms take up to 20% of your earnings for the privilege!
As someone who has been working successfully in the gig economy for over 10 years, my recommendation would be to look elsewhere. Create a portfolio, build a social media presence, contact clients directly, post ads on webmaster forums… do anything else really! Even try other platforms. Fiverr is also encumbered with (smaller) fees, but gives you much more control over your workflow.
But what’s your take on Upwork vs Freelancer? Do you agree? Which is your favorite freelancing site? Let us know in the comments.